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Old 08-26-2010, 06:25 PM
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Exclamation Mammary Gland Tumors

1st I want to thank everyone that has posted their support and prayers for my little girl Hannah. As many of you know she is a special little girl that has been diagnosed with a Mammary Gland Tumor. She will be having a CBC, tumor removal and spaying on Monday morning. The tumor will be sent to a lab to find out if it is benign or malignant.

I have raised animals all my life, but primarily male cats and dogs. I've had 2 female cats but never a female dog until Hannah. Thus my knowledge of health needs to a female dog was very limited. Through the help of this forum and it's wonderful members, much research on the web, frequent vet visits and other things I have learned a lot about my little girl in a short period time. Unfortunately, I was no where near prepared for the diagnosis Hannah got Wednesday. Now, I know many of you here own female chis of all ages and back rounds. What I am posting is not to scare any one but to help people understand what Mammary tumors are and how they can be avoided and if found they can be treated. Hannah's history is as follows: 9 yrs old, unspayed, had 8 litters and 2 false pregnancies and 3 homes. In addition per the vets advice she has been thru 1 more heat cycle. This was to see how much swelling, bleeding and other female things she would go through. The point was to help determine the right time to spay her and how complicated the surgery would be. As of August 9th Hannah was cleared to be spayed, eating well and doing great...but as you all know that has changed. So instead of being spayed on Sept 13th she is having major surgery Monday Aug 30th.

Last edited by lynx8456; 08-26-2010 at 08:06 PM.
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Old 08-26-2010, 06:26 PM
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This article as brief as it is ...remains consistant with every vet article and manual I have read about Mammary Tumors. Therefore, I want to share this one with you:

We have all heard of breast cancer in women. With approximately one woman in eight or nine falling victim to this form of cancer, there are awareness campaigns from numerous health care agencies and research continues. What many pet owners do not know is that the incidence of mammary tumor development in the dog is higher yet with one in four unspayed female dogs affected. This is a huge incidence yet awareness among owners of female dogs is lacking.


A female puppy spayed before her first heat cycle can expect never to develop a mammary tumor of any kind. The incidence of tumor development in this group is nearly zero.

If she is allowed to experience one heat cycle before spaying, the incidence rises to 7% (still quite low).

If she is allowed to experience more than one heat cycle, the risk is driven up to one in four.

* Canine Spay surgery Since most female dogs, come into heat the first time before age one year and breeding an immature female dog is not recommended, this means one must generally choose between a litter of puppies or mammary cancer prevention.

* Because mammary tumors are promoted by female hormones, spaying at any age is helpful in tumor prevention. Just because a female dog is in the high risk group, that does not mean it is too late to reap benefit from spaying.


If your dog is unspayed, was known to have had puppies, or was spayed in adulthood, she fits into the high risk group for mammary cancer development. It is important to be somewhat familiar with the normal mammary anatomy of the female dog. There are five sets of mammary glands as shown though the average female dog has only nine. (It is not unusual for asymmetry of mammary glands to be found). The normal glands should be soft and pliant, especially towards the rear legs. There should be no firm lumps. If a lump is detected, see your veterinarian at once regarding possible removal. Most tumors occur in the glands nearest the rear legs.

What to Watch For

# Masses or lumps within the mammary glands
# Bruising of the skin over the mammary glands
# Ulceration (open wounds) on the mammary glands
# Bleeding of the skin associated with growth of the masses
# Difficulty breathing
# Coughing
# Lack of ability to exercise
# Lack of appetite


# A complete physical examination

# Fine needle aspirate cytology of the mass, which is a technique where a small needle is inserted into the mass to withdraw some cells. These cells are examined under a microscope by your veterinarian or a pathologist.

# Thoracic (chest) radiographs (X-rays)

# Blood work, including complete blood cell counts and a biochemical profile

# Urinalysis

# Fine needle aspirate cytology of local lymph nodes if they are enlarged

# Excision of masses and submission for histopathology (microscopic examination)to determine the type of cancer

# Abdominal (belly) ultrasound (sonogram)

# Abdominal radiographs (X-rays)


# Mastectomy, which is surgical removal of the mass and associated mammary gland, along with removal of any involved lymph nodes

# Ovariohysterectomy. If your dog is intact spaying is generally done at the time of the mastectomy.

# Chemotherapy. Drugs that kill cancer may be recommended in certain animals if the cancer has metastasized or is inoperable.

# Radiation therapy

# Anti-estrogen therapy (anti-hormone therapy)


The good news, if there is some, is that approximately 50% of the tumors formed by female dogs are benign. Since one cannot tell by looking at a tumor which it is, the tumor must be removed or a part of the tumor must be sampled for biopsy. The laboratory can determine whether the tumor is benign or malignant based on the cells and their architecture within the tissue. Alternatively, a “needle aspirate” can be performed where a syringe is used to withdraw some cells from the growth and the lab can determine whether the tumor is benign or malignant with enough accuracy to determine how aggressive the surgical approach should be. Needle aspirate may be a helpful pre-operative procedure in many cases but it should be understood that biopsy is ultimately what is necessary to determine the extent of disease.


Approximately 50% of malignant mammary tumors in the dog have receptors for either estrogen or progesterone. This means that the presence of these female hormones promotes the growth of these tumors. Benign tumors also have female hormone receptors and can also be stimulated by hormonal cycling of the female dog. This means that=2 0spaying is important even if a tumor has already developed; in one study, female dogs spayed at the time of mammary tumor removal or two years prior lived 45% longer than those who remained unspayed.


The following are common classes of mammary tumors that might be found on a biopsy:


A benign glandular tumor for which no treatment is necessary.


What is mixed is the type of cell that makes up the tumor: the epithelial cells that line the glandular tissue and the mesenchymal cells that make up the non-glandular portion. (“Mixed” does not refer to a mix of benign and malignant cells.) The mixed tumor can be either benign or malignant and the biopsy will indicate this.


Adenocarcinomas can be “tubular” or “papillary” depending on that gland cells the tumor arises from. Adenocarcinomas behave malignantly but how aggressively malignant they are depends not on whether they are tubular or papillary but on other cellular characteristics described by the pathologist (such as how quickly the cells appear to be dividing and how closely they resemble normal gland cells). When the oncologist reads the description he or she will be able to determine how aggressively to combat the tumor.


A highly malignant tumor that generates tremendous inflammation locally with ulceration, pus, and discomfort. This type of tumor tends to spread early in its course and is difficult to treat. Fortunately, this especially tragic tumor type accounts for less than 5% of mammary tumors.

In general: approximately 50% of malignant mammary tumors
will have already spread by the time of surgery.

This, of course, means that the other 50%
are locally confined and surgery is curative.


The type of tumor is obviously very important in determining the prognosis; further, spaying at the time for tumor removal or prior is also an important factor in determining prognosis. Other factors include:

* The size of the tumor. Tumors with diameters larger than 1.5 inches have a worse prognosis than smaller tumors.

* Evidence of spread to the lymphatic system (such as the presence of tumor cells in a local lymph node or visible tumor cells with in lymphatic vessels on the biopsy) carries a worse prognosis.

* Deeper tumors or tumor adherence to deeper tissue structures carries a worse prognosis.

* An ulcerated tumor surface carries a worse prognosis.

* A history of especially rapid growth carries a worse prognosis.

The biopsy sample will not only identify the tumor type,
it will also indicated whether or not the tumor
was completely removed (so called “clean” or “dirty” margins).

If the tumor was not completely removed, one may wish to consider
a second surgery to remove more tissue.

Home Care and Prevention

If you note a mass in your dog's mammary glands, have her examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Malignant masses that have gone undetected for long periods and are large are more likely to spread.

If your dog has a large, ulcerated, bleeding mass keep her indoors to keep the area clean and lessen the potential for infection before seeing your veterinarian.

Have your pet spayed or neutered at an early age to decrease the risk of this type of cancer. Avoid the use of synthetic hormone products to control heat cycles as they may increase the risk of your dog developing this type of tumor.

Take your dog to your veterinarian for regular examinations so that tumors can be detected early when they are more likely to be completely removed. This is especially important if you have an older dog that is at increased risk for this type of cancer.

*If you are a breeder please do the right thing and spay your female by the age of 7 to reduce the risk of Mammary Gland Tumors in your little girls. Perhaps if Hannah had been spayed after her 2 false pregnancies at the age of 7, she would not being going through all this now.

* If you have a little girl and have no intention of letting her have puppies but not sure you want to spay her or the cost worries you about spaying think about the long term prevention of tumors by getting the spaying done.

If the moderators here are ok with what I have posted I would love to see this thread made as a sticky for future new comers to this forum who own female dogs please. Perhaps it might help someone else.

Last edited by lynx8456; 08-26-2010 at 06:29 PM.
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Old 08-26-2010, 06:38 PM
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Sooo Sorry to hear about Hannah and We are thinking of Her here.I just wanted to say Thanks for the info,I read alot too about My girls and never new of this.So Thanks and good luck to Hannah.Keep Us posted !
"You do not own a chihuahua, the chihuahua owns you."
Tami and Crew
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Old 08-26-2010, 06:44 PM
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Very interesting! it's almost reverse in humans.. there are higher cancer risks for women who have not had children for certain cancer types.
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Old 08-26-2010, 06:55 PM
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I am so sorry you are going through this with Hannah. My Std Poodle Cassie had to have the operation 3x. It is not a very fun thing to go through. My thoughts will be with Hannah on Monday, I hope it comes back benign. Cassies were always a mixed malignancy.

Thank-you Sugarbaby for my awesome siggie!
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Old 08-26-2010, 06:55 PM
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I'm so sorry about Hannah having to go through this, she is definitely in my thoughts. I appreciate your post so much, I agree it should be made a sticky. Knowledge is power and you've provided so much wonderful info that is sure to be helpful to many people.

I worry about my Roo for this very reason. I got her in rescue at the age of 2 1/2 after she had had a couple of litters and was pregnant with a 3rd, so it's definitely something I am aware of and will always keep a close eye on things. Thanks again so much for you post and best wishes for your little Hannah.

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." ~ Anatole France
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Old 08-26-2010, 06:57 PM
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Thanks for posting that Laura !

I've always worried about Stella. She was over 5 years old when I got her and she wasn't spayed. Just the spay itself was I can imagine the stress you feel leading up to next week.

But I have a good feeling that Hannah is going to pull through like a champ.
She has the perfect life waiting for her when the surgery is overwith !

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Old 08-26-2010, 06:58 PM
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So sorry to hear about Hannah we are thinking about her

This is such good info
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